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Furman University Fraternities vs. The South Carolina Baptist Church

Throughout the course of history, Furman University, located in Greenville, South Carolina, had always been aligned with the South Carolina Baptists until 1992. But before the separation from the Baptist church and the university, Furman followed strict rules and regulations set forth by the Baptists. One of the most talked about issues debated between the school and the church occurred in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, concerning campus fraternities. Fraternities were established on the campus in 1927, but not without strong protest from the church. The South Carolina Baptists implemented strict policies by which Furman students had to obey by. For example, the Broad River Association, a regional branch of the church, demanded that all forms of dancing be banned for Furman students. A statement released by the Broad River Association said, “We acknowledge that it is possible for a Christian to dance, but we do not believe you can be a maximum Christian and dance…” (Peace p.1). Furthermore, the ban on dancing would not only apply on campus for students and alumni, but off campus as well. The Broad River Association, whose extremely strict views are regarded as the minority, had been on a seven year conquest to expel Greek fraternities from the campus. “These strict conservatives also believed that fraternities encouraged drinking, blasphemy, card playing, and swearing by football coaches on the playing field” (Taylor p.185). Mrs. Ned Gregory, a member of Furman’s board of trustees, stated that “policy making does not come from the trustees but from a small group of preachers in South Carolina” (Steadman p.1). Furthermore, Mrs. Gregory noted that “preachers made threats to university trustees if they did not vote to amend the charter, for example firing a faculty member” (Steadman p.1).

Furman students admitted that there was some fraternity members who indulged in unethical behavior but it was blown out of proportion. Consequently, fraternities at Furman were compared to fraternities at other schools and acknowledged that all their actions are not appropriate. Mr. Frady, a junior at Furman and a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon, during the time of the convention, “noted that the scholastic averages of fraternity members were consistently high. He estimated that the averages of fraternity members was about 1 percent point higher than the student body at large” (Evans p. 1). Mr. Frady also mentioned that those who are fraternity members on campus are some of the most active and intelligent people at Furman. Furthermore, Frady stated that “there is a close relationship between the fraternity members and the rest of the student body, and that there is no hostility between the two” (Evans p. 2). Other opinions included, “without fraternities the university would have a high school or seminary atmosphere” (Decision to ‘Phase Out’ Frats Climaxes Bitter Controversy p.1). In the Greenville News, an article was written that said “fraternities and other social organizations are a healthy part of student life, but not at Furman. The university believes it can exist without them as they cause irritation and distraction to the administration” (Peace p.1). After a strong stand by Reverend Cullen Crook, a pastor of Welcome Baptist Church of Greenville, who was one of the most adamant anti-fraternity leaders during the South Carolina Baptist Convention, finally got his wish. On June 26, 1962, the Furman University Board of Trustees voted 11-10 to amend the charter to not allow fraternities and sororities either on or off campus. The decision stated that those pledging during the years of 1961-62 would be able to continue their fraternity membership for their remaining three years at college.

On May 11, 1993, after Furman University’s break with the South Carolina Baptist Church in 1992, the board of trustees approved a charter amendment to allow fraternities and sororities back on campus. The decision allowed seven of the eight fraternities on campus that already had ties with national organizations to officially be recognized and represent their respective fraternities on campus. It was believed that even though fraternities were outlawed on campus, they continued to exist and the decision “just legitimized what was already part of campus life” (Taylor p.186).


Works Cited

Evans, Frances. "Decisive Action Seen On FU's Fraternities." The Greenville News Fall 1958-1962:1,2.

Steadman, Ethel A. "Tempers Sizzle, And Words Fly." The Greenville News 15 Nov. 1962: 1.

Taylor, Mark Allan. Religious Identity On a Slippery Slope: Furman University and Mercer University During the 1990s. The Florida State University College of Education.2000.

Unknown. "Decision To 'Phase Out' Frats Climaxes Bitter Controversy." The Greenville News 27 June1962: 1.

- - -. "Furman Will Seek Charter Ban On Frats." The Greenville News 8 Nov. 1962: 1.

- - -. "Relieve FU Of This Irritant." The Greenville News Summer 1952: 4.